Light It Up

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A decade ago, no one was talking about the problems of lighting for digital because traditional Tungsten and HMI lights were dominating the market. What a difference a few years can make. Although Tungsten and HMIs are still popular with cinematographers, a new generation of LEDs has flooded the marketplace, as well as sets. Lighting equipment has quickly adjusted to this new world, where the precise and unforgiving nature of HD and digital imagery means that lighting often needs to be softer. Here, HDVideoPro looks at some of the latest tools from top lighting companies, including LEDs, HMIs, Tungsten and lighting controllers.


ARRI’s ( L-Series of LED lights kicked off with the L7, an LED Fresnel with the same light qualities as a traditional tungsten Fresnel, but with the added features of full CCT tune-ability and color selection. At NAB 2014, the company introduced the new L5. The latest in this successful line now offers users various options in a smaller, more portable form while still taking full advantage of LED technology, and allowing for complete control over the color and intensity of light. The L-Series Fresnels burn cold, saving AC costs on set, and offer precise focus knobs, a sliding stirrup, yoke, pole operation and tilt lock. Importantly for broadcast use, all L7 functions can be remotely controlled through DMX.

Kino Flo’s ( new Celeb 400Q DMX softlight is built on a proprietary Photo Rendering Index (PRI) scale and, with a PRI of 95, offers a highly stable color variable LED ideal for use with all digital cinema cameras. Special thermal dynamics ensure the Kelvin is stable for 50,000 hours and output doesn’t fade. "We see a lot of smallish, harsh, LED-look fixtures coming onto the set that don’t pass muster with cinematographers working as they do these days with high-definition cameras," notes company founder Frieder Hochheim. At 25×25 inches, the large, soft modeling light cuts down image sharpness, gives an even light and doesn’t wash out the background. Thanks to dramatically reduced fixture heat and current use, the Celeb LEDs are also cost-effective—the company estimates that studio air-conditioning wattage costs can be as much as 98% lower than traditional tungsten sources.

The new daylight to Tungsten tunable color model, Litepanels’ ( new ASTRA line of panels (with additional fixtures in the series set to debut later this year) offers a light output that’s up to four times brighter than the company’s traditional 1×1 Bi-Color fixture, high CRI (Color Rendering Index) and user-selectable active or passive cooling modes—key in maintaining long life and color accuracy in LED fixtures. Notes Chris Marchitelli, Vice President of Global Marketing, "We’ve always known that our next-generation panel would need to push the performance envelope, so we approached our new ASTRA line very thoughtfully." He adds that the modular ASTRA is "likely the most versatile LED panel ever built. It’s sturdy and lightweight, flexible and strong, and provides a higher output and better color than has ever been seen before."

Introduced last year, the reengineered Zylight ( F8—which almost matches the output of a traditional 1000W Fresnel and collapses to less than four inches thick for easy transport—also offers improved performance, including the self-locking focus that automatically holds focus position, a self-terminating DMX input, better protection from the elements and a new heat-sink orientation that allows 20% better cooling. The yoke mount has been angled for greater positioning range and is able to accommodate 90º stand mounting, and a single knob does all locking and adjustment. DP Andre Martinez used two Zylight F8 LED Fresnels while shooting the current season of The Bachelorette and notes that the F8 "fits in a relatively small road case and doesn’t require a ballast or head feeder cables, making it that much more self-contained. They give me all the light I need quickly without running miles of extra cable or carrying a second generator."

Matthews’ ( ROADRAGS and ROADRAGS II are part of a new patented portable lighting-modification system that allows any DP, photographer or videographer—while on location—the ability to quickly and easily duplicate studio lighting effects using their portable lights. The system consists of two folding 18×24-inch frames, single scrim, double scrim, artificial silk and flag with convenient carrying bag. Optional reflector panels are also available. ROADRAGS II comes with the same items, but in the larger 24×36-inch configuration. The elastic corded frames fold for storing and transporting; it’s quick and easy to open the frame, and by using the different materials, the user is able to quickly create contrasts, different light ratios, diffusion or block the light. ROADRAGS kits will fit into most portable lighting kits.

Chimera’s ( new Techbank NF offers users an adjustable-mount system with no frame or poles, and the Lightbanks attach to 1×1 or 1×2 lights using unique elastic straps that wrap around the back corners of light fixtures. In addition, looped straps hold the unit by wrapping around the yoke tension knobs. The front Lens Screen attaches with hook and loop material, mating to the material around the front perimeter of the Lightbank. The 30% front Lens Screen focuses the LEDs into one light source to eliminate multiple shadows, and the new NF models fit a wide variety of popular 1×1 and 1×2 LED lights, including Zabolight Z1 and Z2, Creamsource, Dracast LED1000, F&V K4000, Flolight MicroBeam, Limelite Mosaic, Litepanels and Visual Buddha. "I can’t speak more highly about the combination of the Chimera LED Lightbank and Litepanels 1×1," says DP Rodney Charters, ASC, CSC (Dallas, Shameless, 24). "It has become a ‘must-have’ available just outside the set entrance, waiting for its inevitable call to save the day. It’s used in almost every setup."